Passive Voice

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The passive voice is less usual than the active voice. The active voice is the "normal" voice. But sometimes we need the passive voice. In this lesson we look at how to construct the passive voice, when to use it and how to conjugate it.

Construction of the Passive Voice

The structure of the passive voice is very simple:

subject + auxiliary verb (be) + main verb (past participle)

The main verb is always in its past participle form.

Look at these examples:

subjectauxiliary verb (to be)
main verb (past participle)
drunkby everyone.
100 peopleare
employedby this company.
paidin euro.
Wearenotpaidin dollars.
paidin yen?

Use of the Passive Voice

We use the passive when:

  • we want to make the active object more important
  • we do not know the active subject

give importance to active object (President Kennedy)President Kennedywas killedby Lee Harvey Oswald.
active subject unknownMy wallethas been stolen.?

Note that we always use by to introduce the passive object (Fish are eaten by cats).

Conjugation for the Passive Voice

We can form the passive in any tense. In fact, conjugation of verbs in the passive tense is rather easy, as the main verb is always in past participle form and the auxiliary verb is always be. To form the required tense, we conjugate the auxiliary verb. So, for example:

  • present simple: It is made
  • present continuous: It is being made
  • present perfect: It has been made

Here are some examples with most of the possible tenses:

infinitiveto be washed
simplepresentIt is washed.
pastIt was washed.
futureIt will be washed.
conditionalIt would be washed.
continuouspresentIt is being washed.
pastIt was being washed.
futureIt will be being washed.
conditionalIt would be being washed.
perfect simplepresentIt has been washed.
pastIt had been washed.
futureIt will have been washed.
conditionalIt would have been washed.
perfect continuouspresentIt has been being washed.
pastIt had been being washed.
futureIt will have been being washed.
conditionalIt would have been being washed.



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